The Post: Not Even Loans for High-Speed Rail

The Washington Post, the newspaper of record from our nation’s capital, is somewhat of a bellwether of public opinion on high-speed rail. Back in 2009, when Obama first proposed to build a high-speed rail network, Post editorial writers were all for it as a way of reducing congestion. In 2010, the paper published an op ed by a National Geographic travel writer who argued that the “benefits of high-speed rail have long been apparent to anyone who has ridden Japan’s Shinkansen trains or France’s TGV.”

By 2011, though, the Post was having second thoughts. In January of that year, the paper argued that the nation should “hit the brakes” on the California high-speed trains, the only true high-speed rail in Obama’s plan (since Florida dropped out). (This editorial led to a letter expressing the opposite view from Secretary of Immobility Ray LaHood.)

In February, 2011, the Post argued that joining China, France, and Japan in a high-speed rail race would be “a race everyone loses. Three months later, the Post once again hammered the California project in light of new reviews questioning both the claimed costs and benefits of the project. Somebody, please, stop this train” the paper added in November 2011.

Yesterday, the Post even opposed just loaning federal money to a private high-speed rail company. As the Antiplanner noted last week, a private company wants a $4.9 billion loan to help build a rail line from southern California to Las Vegas. But the memories of Solyndra and other solar companies getting federal loans, giving huge amounts of money to executives, and then going bankrupt may be too recent. The Post even understands opportunity costs, noting that, “As for jobs, any that the Vegas train creates will come at the expense of alternative uses of the money,” a reality not always recognized by journalists.

The Nevada group, which is backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, may get its money, although the grant that the company is seeking is coming from a fund that was never used for this kind or size of a project before. But any expectation by Californians that DC pundits will support more federal funding for even a modified high-speed rail plan must be considered wildly optimistic.


22 thoughts on “The Post: Not Even Loans for High-Speed Rail

  1. LazyReader

    Don’t just look at Solyndra, look at GM, GE…..

    Let’s see the supposed savior of GM the Volt; sales have plummeted, Nissan’s Leaf sales have also plummeted. Another towel will be thrown in, another nail in the coffin. They’re bogged down by the weight of the battery which probably wont last very long judging by how well we treat our smart phones and laptops as disposable products within a year, we expect these cars to last 100,000 miles? So Nissan’s answer to it’s struggling Leaf sales is to make an even more expensive luxury version of the same car marketable to a niche of celebrity greens; sorry there simply aren’t enough Ed Begley’s and DiCaprios to warrant it’s production. GM’s own Chevy Volt has been such a disappointment. It’s desperate for sales; they only sold a little over 300 in January and no more than 280 in February and the car has been on sale since winter 2010. GM had announced it would build 100,000 in the first two years. As of February 2012 only 9600+ have been sold. Kelley Blue Book projected the 2011 Chevrolet Volt resale value at just over $17,000 after 36 months. Consumer Reports commented that their own analysis show that many Chevrolets lose about half of their purchase price after three years of ownership, and if the Volt depreciates the same, $17,000 seems a reasonable estimate. New York city has announced it would buy 75 vehicles for the city government’s fleet. Just imagine how many will be gobbled up by state and federal agencies to replace it’s fleet of Crown Victoria’s. Nissans Leaf had it’s production reduced, from 50,000 to 40,000 and then to 20,000. The subsidies are 7,500 dollars, with Obama attempting to pass 10,000 dollars. It’s kind of like a poker player with only a pair of deuces, he throws a whole lot of chips in the pot to trick everybody to fold and when they don’t fold the player just throws more money in. Leaf sales are just as terrible, even as a true electric vehicle it costs less to produce for Nissan as the Volt does for GM because GM incorporates two power plants, an engine and a battery. It tells us the market is just rejecting these vehicles. Of course the President’s economic adviser is Jeffrey Immelt who is the CEO of General Electric, which has committed to buying over 10,000 of these vehicles telling GE employees if they’re gonna buy a car for company business, buy this one to qualify for the tax credit and get reimbursement “Buy a Volt, but only a Volt”. What’s the opposite of the Midas touch where in this case everything government touches turns to crap. Years ago the federal government spent millions of dollars on developing hybrid cars, giving money to the Big Three. Honda and Toyota did not participate; despite all the federal welfare, who put hybrids on the market first? Was it the Big Three or the Asian makers. GM only makes hybrid versions of it’s GMT platform (Tahoe, Escalade at $60,000+), Ford produces one hybrid version of the Escape and produces one hybrid sedan (in Mexico, so much for American jobs). This is invisible arm twisting and federal corporatism. The market for these vehicles is saturated and the taxpayer is fed up with subsidizing a product no one want’s only to be bought by the government to replace it’s vehicle fleet. It’s corporate welfare. It’s just once again government picking and choosing energy options for people like forcing us to buy only the toxic CFL bulbs (what made all those Ground Zero workers sick, thousands and thousands of CFL lamps atomized, if you drop just one in your house you better leave the room). Even outside the U.S. the green jobs are evaporating in face of true financial woes. Australian solar firm Silex has declared bankruptcy. After Solyndra, Evergreen and don’t forget Q-Cells Corp which at it’s peak traded stocks at over 97 dollars per share, now trading as of April 5th at 15 cents per share.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    At least a Volt does not depend on super-expensive railroad tracks, electrification schemes and signal systems in order to provide useful service to its owner or user.

    MJ Reply:

    No, but it does require very expensive, complicated, and bulky battery technology. That will probably be its downfall.

    Dan Reply:

    I agree – America is now too stupid to figure out this problem. We can no longer innovate or invent. We can’t do it. We just can’t. We can’t figure out how to make batteries better. We caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan’t doooooooooooo it !


    the highwayman Reply:

    CPZ STFU! As if expressways, traffic signals and all other automobile related paraphernalia was some how not expensive.

    prk166 Reply:

    How expensive was it? What was the ROI?

    the highwayman Reply:

    What’s the ROI for breathing?

  2. kens

    The Post editorial, even though critical of the project, makes it sound better than it is. It cites an 80-minute travel time and compares it to a four-hour drive, but the latter is the time to drive the whole distance from the LA area to Vegas. The train’s terminus would be between Barstow and Victorville, something like 165 miles from Vegas, or less than 2.5 hours (70 mph limit, so speeds probably average 75-80). Add on the time to arrive and get boarded, then disembark and take a taxi or hotel shuttle, and the time is probably about the same.

    C. P. Zilliacus Reply:

    Excellent points, kens.

    the highwayman Reply:

    Though what’s really needed is just regular Amtrak service from LA to SLC via LV.

  3. C. P. Zilliacus

    The Antiplanner wrote:

    But the memories of Solyndra and other solar companies getting federal loans, giving huge amounts of money to executives, and then going bankrupt may be too recent. The Post even understands opportunity costs, noting that, “As for jobs, any that the Vegas train creates will come at the expense of alternative uses of the money,” a reality not always recognized by journalists.

    This sounds a lot like the Las Vegas Monorail (at least to me).

    That would be the same Las Vegas Monorail that defaulted on its bonds.

    MJ Reply:

    I believe the LV Monorail also asked for loan guarantees from some quasi-governmental organization in Nevada. Basically the same setup. The public sector took a hit, but at least its damage was limited. And I think they have been able to restructure their operations to put themselves on firmer footing form the perspective of their finances.

  4. Dan

    But the memories of Solyndra and other solar companies getting federal loans, giving huge amounts of money to executives, and then going bankrupt may be too recent.

    You do know that even Darrel Issa has said there’s no there there to investigate, right? Of course you know that.

    But it is still an effective cudgel for misinformation for the ignorami to parrot. Not quite to totem status, but getting there. Keep banging the drum and you can help, Randal, create another misinformation totem.


    Sandy Teal Reply:

    The scandal isn’t that somebody did something illegal. The scandal, at least for those outside the beltway, is that it was legal.

    Dan Reply:

    Its the genius of capitalism! And you are complaining? What’s in it for you?


    Jardinero1 Reply:

    Dan, I sense your sarcasm, but to clarify, when a corporation uses the organ of the state to further its own interest and the state uses its power to manipulate markets that is not capitalism. That is corporatism and fascism respectively. Outside of a corporatist or fascist state, Solyndra would not exist, that is capitalism.

    Dan Reply:

    Jardinero, Solyndra would exist because it had a good product. It just so happened to have been undermined by cheap Chinese PV panels.

    Don’t let wingnut media dupe you into believing this was a scam by the uppity food stamp Kenyan nObama, while at the same time the wingnut media wishes for oil subsidies to continue and for polluters to continue to avoid paying.


    Jardinero1 Reply:

    Companies exist so long as revenues exceed expenses. Having a better product than your competitor is neither here nor there. That is also capitalism.

    Solyndra doesn’t exist, anymore. It would have ceased to exist even sooner were it not for the loans. The chinese panels are only cheaper because they obtain an even greater subsidy from the Chinese government than Solyndra did. Without subsidy few of these companies would exist.

    Dan Reply:

    I’m not arguing for subsidy. I’m arguing the playing field is tilted and look at the backlash over trying to end fossil fuel subsidies (and the misleading coverage that implies that 60 votes are needed to pass). Every capitalist everywhere is going to ask for free money and threaten dire consequences if they don’t get them. Human nature.


    Jardinero1 Reply:

    I agree with you there.

  5. Sandy Teal

    So let me get this straight. Some people think it is a national priority to spend billions of dollars to build a HSR to get people from an hours drive outside of LA to a half hours drive outside of Las Vegas, which will be slower and costs more than an airplane ride, just so those in LA have an optional way to gamble.

    Does the Environmental Impact Statement have an option that just builds an Indian casino in LA?

    the highwayman Reply:

    HSR to Las Vegas isn’t really needed, what’s needed is just regular passenger train service from LA to SLC via LV.

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